Movie Review : Doctor Strange (2016)
Doctor Strange was a superhero that few people knew outside of true blue comic books dorks before being given his own movie like every superhero in Marvel's goddamn catalog. If you knew who Doctor Strange was, it meant you were really into comic books and not one of the lecturing posers on the internet. That is not the case anymore. The movie adaptation was well-received by critics last Fall and even made its money in the box office. Fast forward six months, Doctor Strange is not available for free on streaming devices and where does that leave our good doctor? Kind of nowhere, really because the movie sucked. Sure, it's colorful and features impressive special effects, but it doesn't make up for that lumbering fiasco of a movie. If anything, it's a colorful lumbering fiasco with impressive special effects.
Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch, who else?) is an arrogant world-renowned neurosurgeon who lost the passion for his work. He only takes cases that can offer him excitement and professional accolades, turning down everyone else or declaring them untreatable. When Strange is involved in a fateful car crash that mangles his precious hands one evening, rendering him untreatable to modern science. Frustrated by his own powerlessness over the situation, he travels to Nepal on the suggestions of one of his "once untreatable" case who's been miraculously healed by Oriental medicine. What Strange discovers in Nepal is much more than new ways of healing, he discovers his true purpose: protecting the Earth from the "dark dimension."
All right. * cracks knuckles *
There is no real antagonist in Doctor Strange. Sure, they're the Mads Mikkelsen character you're going to tell me, but he's got critical flaws that render him fangless as a villain. For example, he's got no personality of his own outside of the walking martial arts movie cliché of being the former student who dabbled in the dark arts and became super powerful. Mikkelsen and Tilda Swinton's character are both reflections of Stephen Strange's boundless ambition and untamable confidence, mirroring his possible fates whether he chooses to use them for the collective good or for his own empowerment. There is no real conflict in Doctor Strange. He is always in complete control of his destiny. He's a cocky blowhard who wants to heal, but remains kind of a cocky blowhard throughout the movie, which is best illustrated in the scenes where Strange uses his powers to teleport in to his generic love interest's * hospital in order to get treatment for his battlefield wounds. He uses her for new purposes, but he's still using her.
What I don't get is that Stephen Strange already had a purpose before embarking on his mystical journey: healing people. Sure, a tragic car accident took it away from him but what Doctor Strange conveniently forgets is that he had already turned his back on it. His arrogance and boredom lead him to turned uninteresting patients away, so given that Strange doesn't change all that much during the movie: what does actually prevent him of becoming that arrogant genius again. It's bad enough he effortlessly outwits the "real antagonist" (who's introduced in the last ten minutes of the movie) using a trick a twelve year old would fend off, Strange is bound to get bored of fending off impotent space monster, isn't he? He's placed in this position of absolute power again without having significantly changed. And all of that stems from having a paper thin pseudo-antagonist.
I'll give it to Marvel: they tried to do something different with Doctor Strange. They swapped the long and overedited fistfights with long, colorful and overedited scenes of pseudo-martial arts fights with scrawny people drawing things in the air. It's not as breathless and redundant as some of their blandest movies, but it's still boring and critically flawed. Sure, it's colorful and there are Inception-like trippy special effects, but so what? If you want to watch Inception, watch Inception. It's a better movie anyway. I hesitated before reviewing Doctor Strange because I'm tired of shitting on superhero movies, but seeing Wonder Woman this weekend reminded me that this kind of movie is unacceptable. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 is another example. There is no excuses for mass produced, shit movies. Not when you're releasing great ones in between.
* Played with admirable vigor by the admirably vigorous Rachel McAdams.